Living out Our Hope That All May Be One

Father Jim F. Callahan
August 24, 2018

Worthington, Minnesota is a community of 13,000 people, located in the Southwest corner of the state. It is a diverse community with 64 nationalities, living, working and worshipping together. The Latino population comprises the largest immigrant community. Seventy-five percent of our public school children speak Spanish as their first language. Most members of our immigrant communities come without documentation.

People often wonder how Worthington has the second largest immigrant community in the state. What draws immigrants here are the meat packing plants in the city and surrounding communities as well as the numerous farms throughout the region.

The challenges facing the immigrant communities in Worthington are racism, prejudice, and discrimination. Lack of affordable housing, medical, and dental care are also challenges that the community faces. As a result of the need for medical care, we established the Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Clinic, and later, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Dental Clinic. Anyone without insurance is welcome. We became a 501(c)(3) four years ago, and have seen over 1200 patients.

The Parish of St. Mary is a church of hospitality. Our primary objective is to make the parish a welcoming and safe haven for all people. After the election of Donald Trump, fear seized our community. We announced to the parish we would do everything possible to help and protect our people. The staff prayed and studied what would be the most Gospel-based response to this crisis. Already we were experiencing families being torn apart by deportation and mothers separated from their children. So we unanimously decided that we had to become a Sanctuary Church. Since our declaration of becoming a Sanctuary Church, we have received support from the diocese and individuals and faith communities around the state.

We believe Sanctuary has biblical roots and we have mandate to proclaim justice for all people, regardless of race, creed, or color.

We work closely with the Immigrant Law Center based in St. Paul. We established a steering committee made up of immigrants and community leaders and the church sponsors programs, workshops, and listening sessions related to topics which affect the community. As a Catholic Faith Community whose foundation is the Eucharist, we have an obligation to live out the pillars of Catholic Social Teaching, living out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

St. Mary’s Parish prays for comprehensive immigration reform and for the end of this reign of terror, where families will no longer hide in the shadows, where families will no longer be separated or children taken from their parents because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, or who they call God.

Our prayer is as a Nation, as a Church, as a People, that one day all may be one.


Father Jim F. Callahan is Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Worthington, MN.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

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